A Taste of Soulfulness

This gospel-like hymn by David Haas can sound glorious with just a taste of soulfulness, as this rendition demonstrates. In my church, we sing it without the key change. Perhaps this is a wise move, since it is challenging enough in the lower key.

When “We Are Called” is led by a cantor rather than a choir, it is always a good idea to ask the people to join in singing the refrain. On the verses, young men really need to manage the register breaks, or else they can sound like Peter Brady in the days of his voice-changing drama. By young men, I mean those who are 20, not 12, and should know better. Mindless belting is what creates the Peter Brady effect.

Women of all ages also need to be careful. That E, the highest note in the piece, is right on my passaggio and my voice could crack as well if I don’t take it easy. The great Renée Fleming has advocated “soft passaggio singing” in choirs, and I try to apply this technique to guide my voice as a soloist as well.

Another deceptively simple piece is the Fauré “Pie Jesu,” which sits right in that tricky area. I used to cringe every time I saw a D or E and wait to feel that slight tension that meant a poor register transition. Good breath support and open vowels remedied the trouble I was having and kept me from sounding too thin or pinched.

On a contemporary hymn like “We Are Called,” the syncopated rhythms and powerful message speak for themselves. If anything, let the highest notes glide as tenderly as we are called to love.